Oscar's desperate search for relevancy continues. With the choice of Comedy Central's Jon Stewart as the next Oscar host, the film academy has apparently opted for the host most like the films that presumably will be nominated for the award itself — small, literate, political-ish, gems like "Brokeback Mountain," "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Capote."...But those movies -- those "small, literate, political-ish, gems like 'Brokeback Mountain,' 'Good Night, and Good Luck' and 'Capote'" -- do so want to be taken seriously, and the Oscars are supposed to be the occasion to make us take the serious movies seriously. It's a difficult trick to be a good, funny host without stepping over the edge and signaling that the Oscar movies are not the pompous things they pretend to be. Maybe Stewart can do what they need.
As news of Stewart's coronation spread through Hollywood, people were cheered for just the potential break in the increasingly staid, self-important, Oscar glopfest.
"I'm excited about it," says "Chronicles of Narnia" producer Mark Johnson, an academy member and former member of the organization's board of governors. "There's such a need for relevancy in the world at large, and not just the movie business. You want to make the Oscars as relevant and sexy as you can be, within the guidelines. I have [nothing against] bad taste and vulgarism in a lot of what I listen to and see, but in the Oscars there's no place for it."
Others hope that the irreverent Stewart will cut loose a little. "The Oscars have grown into this appalling circus," says film historian and critic David Thomson. "We're trapped with it, and very often the films are not worthy. I don't think the host is terribly important, but to the degree that we're fed up with the show, a new host is fresh meat.
"A new host can say, 'I'll only do it if I can do it my own way.' That's the real bargain — whether the real host is given liberty or the academy sits on him. If they give Jon Stewart his freedom, it would be a merciful touch. He's always against pomp. Maybe he can be fun."
January 6, 2006
From the L.A. Times: